Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who led the opposition against Robert Mugabe’s regime for many years, has died in South Africa after a battle with cancer, his party says. He was 65 years old.
Tsvangirai, who founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, passed away on Wednesday while being treated at a hospital in South Africa. His family said he had been suffering from colon cancer.
“Tsvangirai has not been feeling well for some time,” Elias Mudzuri, one of the vice presidents of the Movement for Democratic Change, said. “It is sad for me to announce that we have lost our icon and fighter for democracy.”
Mudzuri added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, the party and the nation at this hour.”
Tsvangirai’s death comes just months after Mugabe was forced out in a military takeover, bringing his regime to an end after nearly four decades in power. Zimbabwe, under Mugabe’s rule, had long faced sanctions from the international community for alleged human rights abuses and vote-rigging.
Tsvangirai won the presidential election in 2008, but he failed to secure a majority to avoid a second round. Mugabe was declared the winner of the run-off election, but international observers condemned alleged vote-rigging and a campaign of violence against opposition supporters.
The crisis in 2008 led to a power sharing agreement between Tsvangirai’s MDC party and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. As a result, Tsvangirai served as the country’s prime minister from 2009 until 2013, when he lost the presidential election.
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